Learning How to Cook Fennel - Easier Than You Might Think

Fennel is an herb that has a very distinctive flavor and scent and learning how to cook fennel is not as daunting as one might first have thought. The fennel plant has been used in culinary practices for a very long time. Its bulb, seeds and foliage are all edible and can be used in cooking. The seeds are very strong scented and the flavor is very often referred to being like anise only slightly less potent. The leaves of the fennel plant look much like dill and have a delicate flavor and are often added to salads. The bulb can be cooked in a number of ways: braised, grilled, sautéed or stewed. There are many who enjoy it raw too. Learning how to cook fennel is simply just figuring out how you would prefer to eat it.

Roasted Fennel

Many describe the flavor of fennel bulb as being a cross between licorice, cabbage and celery. As you can imagine it has a very distinctive flavor. However, roasting fennel has become quite popular as it changes the flavor to something nuttier. Fennel makes for an interesting side dish when prepared this way.

Learning how to cook fennel in a roasted form really is very simple. You would simply want to heat your oven to 400 degrees and then halve your fennel bulb and then slice it in wedges about an inch thick each. Line your pans with aluminum foil and then spritz or rub your fennel with some olive oil. You may season this however you like, either with a brush of balsamic vinegar or with salt and pepper and other spices/spice mixes. And then simply roast the fennel in your oven until they begin to caramelize – approximately 35-45 minutes.

Adding Fennel to Roasts, Soups and Stews

Another great way to cook fennel is to make it an addition to other dishes. Fennel makes a great replacement for onion in the case of allergies. Figuring out how to cook fennel into a stew or a roast really is just a matter of remembering to add it in!

If adding fennel to a soup stock, the best part to use are the stalks. How to cook fennel here would be to cut them into pieces much like you would celery. They go into a soup stock at the same time you would add the carrots, celery and onions. Adding fennel into your soup really adds a hint of something exotic to your dish.

Fennel bulbs also make a great addition to the vegetable mix with roasts. Cube them as you would onions or potatoes and add them in with your turnips, carrots, etc. In this case, knowing how to cook fennel is the same as knowing how to roast all of the other vegetables and quite simple. Spray all of the vegetables with a little olive oil and season as you normally would. Bake them for 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven, as you normally would and then enjoy the new flavor addition!

Grilling Fennel in the Summer

Fennel comes into season during the summer into the late autumn which makes it a perfect vegetable to add to your grilling rotation. There's nothing more fun than throwing together a meal on the grill, so why not add a bit of uniqueness to your barbeque by adding a touch of the unexpected?

Techniques on how to cook fennel on the grill are fairly straightforward. You want to begin by cutting off the stalks and any of the thick, hard part on the bulb. And then slice the fennel bulb in half and then again in quarters, looking for pieces that are about an inch or so thick – this is roughly the same size you'd wedge onions into if you were grilling them, as a comparison. You'll want your grill to be at a medium heat and while it gets ready, prep your fennel by rubbing it with olive oil and then seasoning with liberal amounts of salt and pepper. After your grill is heated, turn it down to a medium low setting and place your fennel on the racks. Close the lid and give the fennel about five minutes before you check it the first time. If the fennel appears ready, turn it, basting it again with olive oil. Your fennel will want about five to eight minutes per side before it is done. When finished, this is lovely drizzled with balsamic vinegar and the vegetable itself should have retained a crispy texture without being raw.

How to Prepare Fennel

Fennel is a generally easy vegetable to work with. Since it has a crisp texture and distinct flavor, fennel is often thought of as over-powering. Therefore, most people prefer fennel in smaller doses than large. Fennel is great to be sliced thin on a mandolin and used in a vinaigrette with citrus segments, however, those looking for how to cook fennel need to know how to prepare it.

Cutting the fennel is the most important step in cooking with fennel. Rinse the fennel under cool water to ensure there is no dirt in the leaves or bulb leaves. Lay the fennel flat down on a cutting board with the leaves facing away from you. Take your knife and cut the top of the bulb to remove the leaves from the fennel bulb. Thinly slice, chop or shred the bulb for the most flavor. You can use the fennel leaves to dry and use as a spice or place the fennel leaves in a stock or juice to infuse the flavor.

Store any unused portions of fennel in a tight, plastic storage bag inside the refrigerator. Once you have learned how to cook fennel you will learn multiple ways to incorporate fennel into just about any recipe such as salads, soups, salsas and even roasted dishes.

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